Autumn is the secret summer of Santa Cruz, making it one of the best times to visit! From the moment you step foot in Santa Cruz County, visitors will be greeted by a symphony of delights: the mild and inviting weather, perfect for outdoor adventures; the awe-inspiring spectacle of epic sunsets painting the sky with hues of gold and crimson; and that’s just the beginning. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a foodie, an art lover, or simply seeking solace in the midst of nature’s finest, you’re about to discover why Santa Cruz County shines brightest when the leaves begin to turn, and the air carries a crisp warmth. There is something for everyone to enjoy here in autumn, whether you love sailing into ocean sunsets, exploring the foggy redwood trails, or visiting farms to pick pumpkins and apples with your little ones. Join us as we embark on a journey through the multifaceted wonders of Santa Cruz in the fall—a time when warm memories, epic vistas, and the simple joys of the season converge to create an experience that is nothing short of extraordinary.
1.) Pumpkin and Apple Picking
Santa Cruz is an agricultural haven full of local farms that turn into vibrant pumpkin patches and fruit-laden orchards during autumn. When deciding which pumpkin patch to visit, there are two types of farms to pick from: urban pumpkin patches located within the city or rural farms found outside of the city centers in more expansive settings. If you’re interested in an urban environment check out the fabulous Post Street Farm, which has spooky decorations and a haunted house, or you can head to Live Oak for The Great Pumpkin Patch to paint your pumpkin! Outside the city, you can visit the idyllic Rodoni Farms, with endless varieties of pumpkins and a 5-acre corn maze to explore. Apple picking is another excellent autumn agricultural activity in Santa Cruz. Whether you want to just stroll through a picturesque orchard or take home a bounty of freshly picked apples, there are great options like Luz de Valle’s farm stand, Clearview Orchards, and the famous Gizdich Ranch. Be sure to check fruit availability at the orchard of your choice by calling ahead to check the picking conditions. No matter which orchard you choose, you can pick apples to your heart’s content and treat yourself to some delectable fall delicacies made from your apple-picking bounty!
2.) Enjoy the Weather
Even though summer is over, autumn in Santa Cruz is like a second summer with warm temperatures that represent some of the best weather all year. Fill your fall days with activities that let you take advantage of the excellent weather like taking a public sunset sail aboard the Chardonnay Sailing Charter or the O’Neill Yacht. Autumn is the beginning of our epic sunset season that continues into winter when the most spectacular hues fill the Santa Cruz skies with cascading colors of pink, orange, and red. Taking a sunset sail tour is one of the most unique ways to explore the area and provides a brand new perspective of Santa Cruz from the sea. Fall is also one of the best seasons for whale watching in the Monterey Bay since the humpback and blue whales migrate through the area in huge numbers this time every year. If heading out to sea isn’t for you, Fall is also a great time to have a beach day since the hot summer weather has heated the ocean enough for a crisp swim and the perfect temperature for hanging out on one of our many beaches!
3.) View Fall Colors
The neighborhoods of Santa Cruz County come to life with fall color during the autumn season. One of the best ways to see the leaves change is to explore the gorgeous backstreets of the city. Santa Cruz’s Historic Downtown District, especially Walnut Avenue and Pacific Avenue, offers some of the most scenic places to watch the leaves change colors. You can watch golden hour light up the tree-lined streets as you take in the historic Victorian architecture. If you’re looking for a perfect fall morning in Santa Cruz, head downtown and grab a pumpkin flavored or other autumn specialty drink at a coffee shop like 11th Hour, Verve, or Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company and stroll down Walnut Avenue as you bask in the fall colors. Finish up your morning by exploring Pacific Avenue where you can view fall colors and shop at our local businesses.
4.) Visit a Winery
Another way to see spectacular fall colors in Santa Cruz County is by visiting vineyards and going wine tasting ! The Santa Cruz Mountains are known as one of the country’s best wine regions; in fall, the cascading mountain vineyards transform into an autumn wonderland. Estate vineyards are scattered across the mountains and countryside of Santa Cruz County, stretching from Boulder Creek to Corralitos. Each vineyard in the autumn changes colors creating some of the most epic scenic autumn landscapes in the county. Taste wine and take in the gorgeous mountain fall colors at wineries like Big Basin Vineyards or Burrell School Vineyards. The Corralitos wine region is also a spectacular spot to watch the rolling vineyards transform into fiery colors. Visit Windy Oaks Winery or Nicholson Vineyards for gorgeous landscapes and exquisite wines.
5.) Take an Autumn Hike
Santa Cruz County is known for its redwood forests that offer endless hiking trails to choose from, but during the fall you can still see the leaves change colors as you explore the abundant nature our area has to offer! State Parks like Henry Cowell and its Fall Creek sector have gorgeous fall hikes along cascading rivers. In Henry Cowell, head to the River Trail and Eagle Creek to find fiery fall foliage. Hike Fall Creek, which follows a rushing river lined by colorful fall leaves and check out the unique lime kilns in Fall Creek that are shaded by colorful trees. Fall is also one of the best times to spot water-loving wildlife like newts and banana slugs while out on hikes.
Ready for a visit? Book your fall stay in Santa Cruz County now!